The digital revolution has had a massive impact on many industries, from retail, to news, to IT services. It is about to change manufacturing out of all recognition. This change will result from the process of additive manufacturing or 3d printing. The NBN is a key enabler as 3d printing will result in thousands of large design files being downloaded and sent to 3d printers across Australia.
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc. (Definition from Wikipedia).
The Economist Magazine has run a number of articles on 3d printing in 2012, predicting that 3d printing will cause a third industrial revolution.
“Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did….Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.” The Economist, in a February 10, 2011 leader
(The report led with the caption “Print me a Stradivarius” and a picture of a Stradivarius violin that had been 3d printed http://www.economist.com/node/18114327 ).
In April 2012 it ran a full report on 3d printing available here: http://www.economist.com/node/215529013. One prediction in the report was that some of the business of making things will return to rich countries. The technology will have enormous consequences for Australian manufacturing and as such the Hume RDA organised a trip for local businesses to the RMIT Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. During the tour the group were shown 3d printers and prototypes. Below is a short video from the tour shot on a handheld camera. It includes footage of prototypes printed in titanium!
What does 3d printing mean for the Hume Region and how can we start preparing?